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It is likely that, like many people, you have ever needed antibiotic medications. But do you know exactly what they are and what you have to take into account when taking them? In this article we explain which are the most common antibiotics, their main adverse effects and the phenomenon of resistance. In addition, we will give you a series of guidelines so that you avoid possible adverse effects derived from its misuse. 

What are antibiotics and when should they be taken?

Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, single-celled microorganisms that can cause disease in living things. Antibiotics are medicines with great importance, today we perceive them as something normal, but they play a fundamental role in preserving health. We have all needed antibiotics at some point, do we understand their importance? 

These types of drugs work by preventing bacteria from reproducing or destroying them. No types antibiotics are the same, there are antibiotics of different classes, designed to fight different types of bacteria.

What not many people know is that antibiotics treat bacterial diseases, not viral ones, since the latter are caused by viruses, microorganisms other than bacteria.

Some of the most common viral infections, and therefore should not be treated with antibiotics, are: 

  • Most sore throats and coughs
  • Cold
  • Flu 
  • Bronchitis
  • Gastroenteritis of viral origin
  • Some sinus infections
  • Certain ear infections

It is essential to be aware that if I take an antibiotic when I have a viral infection, I will not cure the viral infection or see an improvement in symptoms, but there are also highly counterproductive effects such as:

  • Resistance to the antibiotic develops.
  • It does not prevent other people from catching it.
  • It can cause side effects.
  • Certain antibiotics can alter the intestinal flora or weaken you 

In the same way, it is also harmful to change the prescribed dose , because in addition to the above effects, it can cause toxicity. This applies to all types of drugs, not just antibiotics. Although, as we already explained in the post, The most appropriate dose of ibuprofen for you depends on your genes , the response of each person to a drug depends on several factors, including genetics. It is also essential to follow the recommendations of the leaflet and the doctor’s instructions when taking them. 

Most common antibiotics

Any antibiotic is of no use to treat any bacterial disease. This is because, as we have mentioned, each type of bacteria has specific characteristics, and that is why it needs a specific antibiotic.

Antibiotics are grouped into classes, based on their properties, their chemical structure, their spectrum of action and the type of bacteria they fight.

One of the best known classifications is the classification based on the spectrum of action, in this sense we can differentiate two types of antibiotics:

  • Broad spectrum: antibiotics that act on many different species of bacteria .
  • Reduced spectrum: antibiotics that act on a reduced group of bacterial species .

Antibiotics can be divided into groups with similar characteristics. Each group can include natural drugs (they are found in nature) or semi-synthetic drugs (based on a certain antibiotic, its chemical composition is modified to improve its properties). We have listed the main groups and the most common antibiotics included in each of them below:

Antibiotic class Major antibiotics  
Penicillin   Amoxicillin, ampicillin. 
Quinolonas  Ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, moxifloxacin. 
Macrolides Azithromycin, clarithromycin, erythromycin. 
CephalosporinsCefaclor, cefalexin, cefuroxime. 
Tetraciclinas  Doxycycline. 
Sulfonamidas  Sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim.
Aminoglucósidos Gentamicin, tobramycin.

Why is resistance to antibiotics created? 

Antibiotic resistance arises when a bacterium changes to defend itself against the antibiotic, causing it to partially or totally lose its effectiveness.

When this happens, this bacterium, which is able to survive treatment with a specific antibiotic, can multiply and infect other people by transmitting its properties.

But what factors make a battery resistant to an antibiotic?

Well, mainly the misuse of this type of drug, specifically wrong behavior such as not completing treatment or self-medication with antibiotics to treat diseases caused by viruses (for example, the cold or the flu).

When a specialist prescribes us a course of antibiotics for a specific number of days, it is essential that we complete it. If we don’t, there is a greater chance that the bacteria will “survive” and “learn” how to defend itself against the agent that has attacked it (antibiotic).

Diseases caused by bacteria that have become resistant are very difficult to treat and can be very serious. 3,000 people die annually in Spain and 33,000 in Europe as a result of pathologies caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

The WHO (World Health Organization) points out that resistance to antibiotics is one of the most worrisome global health problems , and underlines the need to rethink the way in which these types of drugs are prescribed and used. 

What side effects can antibiotics have?

Antibiotics save many lives and are essential to use to treat bacterial infections. However, self-medicating with them is a practice that has serious negative consequences, since, in addition to generating resistance, it also unnecessarily exposes us to certain side effects that some antibiotic medications can cause, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Sickness.
  • Rash.
  • Allergic reactions of different severity.
  • They alter the microbiota and can cause: 
    • Diarrhea.
    • Yeast infections (candidiasis)
    • Infection with the bacteria Clostridium difficile, which can damage the colon and lead to death. 

Guidelines for making good use of antibiotics

Making correct use of the most common antibiotics is important to take care of both your own health and that of the public. For this reason, we would like to give you some general guidelines to prevent problems such as those described in the previous sections from occurring. Take note!:

  • Never take an antibiotic without a prescription.
  • Follow the doctor’s instructions regarding dosage, number of intakes and duration of treatment to the letter . Many people stop taking the antibiotic when they see that the symptoms of the disease subside, but it is a mistake.  
  • If at the end of a treatment you have an antibiotic left over, never throw it down the drain or in the trash , deposit it at the SIGRE point of your nearest pharmacy.
  • In case you suffer any side effect during the treatment, go immediately to your medical center .

These recommendations that we have just given also apply to companion animals, which should never be given antibiotics that have not been prescribed by the veterinarian. 

In summary, as you have seen throughout this article, antibiotics are necessary medicines that save many lives around the world, but we must be responsible with their use, so as not to put our health or that of other people at risk, by favoring the appearance of resistance.

The appropriate use of the most common antibiotics is part of the proactive health care that we promote at Veritas. And, you can do a lot to achieve a better and longer life quality, anticipating and preventing the appearance of some pathologies. 
Our genetic tests can help you a lot in this regard, providing you with valuable information, such as your genetic predisposition to some diseases or how you metabolize certain drugs. If you want to know more, do not hesitate to contact Veritas.

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